The state of Florida is struggling to battle the opioid epidemic and is reporting higher numbers than ever in deaths related to the crisis. Now, it faces another challenge: the loss of $20.4 million in Federal funding.
The cut could mean less help in the first defense in the war on opioid addiction. Treatment medications such as Suboxone and Vivitrol, that help to wean people off opioids, might not be available to all who need it within the newly limited budget.
State officials estimated it costs $15,000 to $40,000 on average to treat a person addicted to opioids, Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach said.
“I sit on Health Care Appropriations, and I had no idea,” Rader said, “We didn’t talk about this in 20 meetings that we were losing $20 million.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price added, “When you have the capacity of Yankee Stadium or Dodger Stadium dying every single year in this nation, that’s a crisis that has to be given incredible attention and the president is giving it that attention.”
More than 1,000 lives were lost last year due to the opioid epidemic in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Governor Rick Scott said he looks at opioid misuse as a public health emergency, drawing down $27 million in government financing that will be utilized primarily to be used for medication-assisted treatment.
The additional dollars come with restricted use.
The appropriated monies are not able to be used toward expanding rehab services for the indigent, or funding receiving facilities, which are designed to keep people with mental illness and drug addiction out of jails. Publicly funded treatment facilities say they may be forced to cut back on both staff and beds.
Nationally, Florida consistently ranks at or near the bottom of per-person spending on mental health and substance abuse.